Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2008.09.38

Giovanni Reale (ed.), I Presocratici. Prima traduzione integrale con testi originali a fronte delle testimonianze e dei frammenti nella raccolta di Hermann Diels e Walther Kranz.   Milano:  Bompiani, Il pensiero occidentale, 2006.  Pp. lviii, 2002.  ISBN 88-452-5740-1.  €39.00.  

Reviewed by Adrian Mihai, Université de Montréal (
Word count: 503 words

This volume, as the title mentions, is the first complete translation of the 90 chapters of Diels-Kranz' Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker and provides the Greek and Latin texts on one side with the Italian translation printed on the facing-page. The translation, though by many hands, reads very lucidly and the book is warmly welcomed, both as a faithful rendition of the classic work of Hermann Diels, and as testimony to the endless work of Giovanni Reale towards making large and important works available to a wider audience.

The book, with the complete three sections of Diels-Kranz--denoted with A. Gli Inizi = chs. 1 to 10 (pp. 5-141), B. I frammenti dei filosofi del VI e del V secolo (e dei loro diretti seguaci) = chs. 11 to 78 (pp. 145-1541), C. Antica Sofistica = chs. 79 to 90 (pp. 1547-1843)--is complemented by a 48 page introduction by Giovanni Reale. In the introduction, Reale explains his motives and the necessity for producing a complete translation, with the original text to accompany the facing Italian translation, of Diels' Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker. One of the main reasons for the republication of this magnum opus is that the structure and the numbering system of the testimonies and fragments found in Diels are widely used today and are still seen as references in citations. Moreover, Diels-Kranz is historically important. This edition, which came out in 1903, was largely responsible for scholarly acceptance of the Presocratics as a distinct class of philosophers. As Reale mentions in the introduction, echoing the words of Jean-Paul Dumont from the preface of the French edition of the Présocratiques (Paris: Gallimard, 1988),1 the fragments of the Presocratics are the living memory of our occidental civilization and such "memory" is essential in maintaining Europe's and occidental man's identity (p. xix)--a slight leap from historical observation to metaphysical assertion.

In order to maintain its original purpose and character, no new additions or corrections have been made to the text. Furthermore, no newly discovered fragments have been incorporated. But the text does include the Nachträge to the first and second volumes, which for typographical and editorial reasons had not been inserted in the text of Diels-Kranz. Hence, the text of Reale makes more accessible some material which had been until now unnoticed. Some of the best Italian scholars have worked on the translation of the fragments, such as Maurizio Migliori, Ilaria Ramelli, Maria Timpanaro Cardini, Diego Fusaro, Angelo Tonelli, Salvatore Obinu and of course Giovanni Reale.

The volume is completed, as usual, by an index of names, an index of geographical locations, and an index of passages (under the care of Vincenzo Cicero). The systematic index of the Presocratics will appear as a book with a CD-ROM in the series "Lexicon," with Roberto Radice and Roberto Bombacigno supervising the electronic edition.2

I will mention only one minor oversight. The Italian version of Empedocles' fragment B 54, which can be found on page 685, is missing the translation of the first part of the sentence: αἰθὴρ δ'αὖ.


1.   This edition, though supported by a beautiful French translation, starts with Thales of Miletus, hence misses the first ten chapters. Besides, it has not included the Greek and Latin texts.
2.   In this series, Roberto Radice has already published the following books: Lexicon I: Plato, R. Radice (ed.), Biblia, 2003; Lexicon II: Plotinus, R. Radice (ed.), Biblia, 2004, Lexicon III: Aristotele, 2 vol., R. Radice (ed.), Biblia, 2005; and Lexicon IV: Stoici, 4 vol., Biblia, 2007.

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